With end-to-end testing now commonplace for digital products, there is no shortage of out-of-the-box solutions and processes available to conduct functional and usability testing, identify bugs and ensure that customers are satisfied with the experiences brands offer.

Today’s consumers expect digital and in-store experiences to interact seamlessly, and that means companies need complete omnichannel testing strategies. Leading brands like Starbucks and Shake Shack, for example, are trying to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction by offering features that straddle the physical and digital divide, like mobile orders with in-store pickups.

Services like those may seem like no-brainers, but they are very difficult to implement, and can be equally hard to test. That’s because digital and in-person experiences are very different, and the roads to customer satisfaction for each are completely unique — as are the types of issues customers may encounter in either channel.

Companies must handle testing for digital and in-field experiences in different ways. While there are a few options available that combine the entire digital experience (DX) stack into one complete omnichannel testing solution, brands will often have to get creative and use a variety of homegrown tools to get the job done.

Whether using an out-of-the-box system or a combination of tools, testing before a system is live is crucial to its success.

Here’s a checklist that maps out how to handle testing when building your own “modern” DX stack for omnichannel experiences.

1. DX Testing: Prototype Usability Testing

Testing the user experience is a necessity during prototyping to make sure that users understand the concept, find the navigation and experience intuitive, and are able to complete the expected tasks using a website or a mobile app. Creating an interactive prototype with clickable paths is a straightforward process. InVision is a popular program that allows user experience (UX) designers to upload static wireframes and then link them together to form clickable paths. And wireframing tools such as Axure typically include a prototyping capability as well. With tools like those, people participating in usability tests use a URL to view a prototype on their desktop PC or mobile phone, much as they would view the actual site or app. Usability testing of the prototype is then conducted using a variety of methodologies, both in-person and remote.

Related Article: How to Advance Your DX Testing and Optimization Maturity

2. DX Testing: Functional and Usability Testing

When development teams follow an agile process, the sprint deliverable typically undergoes functional testing. If any user-facing functionality has been implemented during the sprint, this deliverable can be shared with beta users or, better yet, third-party testers who represent real customers to ensure that the product is intuitive and easy to use.

3. In-Field Testing: In-Lab Operations Testing

After moving through the digital experience testing, it’s time to test the in-field experience. Some companies do this at a physical lab. They use these labs for training new employees and testing out new equipment and experiences. This early in-lab operations testing is similar to that of digital prototype testing where the flow of experiences can be judged. Operations testing is typically a hands-on activity and thus requires a lab environment and interactive sessions. As the team works through the operations testing, some indicators of usability issues may be discovered. Since operations testing does not include target users of the app, any potential issues should be logged for further investigation during the actual in-field testing.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Digital Marketing Success Means Balancing Strategy and Execution

4. In-Field Testing: Usability and Operations Testing

Next, it’s time to conduct customer experience and operations tests at a handful of physical locations, such as brick-and-mortar stores or restaurants. The purpose of this exercise is to test the flow of customer experiences in the real world. Thorough testing at this stage will ensure that the user experience is seamless across the entire omnichannel process. For instance, a restaurant can test to determine the right time to prepare food after an order is placed via mobile app, when the customer should receive a notification that the food is ready, and whether there is enough clear signage to successfully direct the customer to pick up the order in the designated area.

Omnichannel experiences depend on the performance of both technology and in-store personnel. In-field tests will evaluate customer experiences based on the time it takes to complete an order, the accuracy of orders, the competence and friendliness of store employees, and ease of use. To gather all of that data, it is necessary to have the people who participate in the tests complete surveys in which they share their feedback about their experiences.

It is important to conduct in-field tests in multiple locations, with different people and at different times of day to ensure that a variety of experiences are tested. That helps identify how a new system will handle “edge cases.” For example, what happens when customers decide to change, or add on to, their orders when they arrive for pickup? What if someone orders a meal for pickup but then drives to the wrong location? Brands should document and test edge cases like those to ensure that they have answers before the problems arise.

Another in-field testing best practice is to stress-test a location to find out, for example, what happens when a large number of people all order ahead to pick up at the same time. How will employees handle such situations? Will they prioritize order-ahead customers over walk-in customers? Or will they prioritize walk-ins — or do something else? Stress-testing will reveal the challenges that arise in such situations.

Test Your Way to Seamless Experiences

The rise in the number of offerings that straddle the physical and digital divide is increasing the degree of variability in the customer experience, but customers still expect a seamless omnichannel experience. That means that a combination of quality-assurance testing and usability testing is extremely important for retailers, restaurants and other businesses. Whatever testing tools they choose — whether they are custom-built, off-the-shelf or some combination of the two — companies that are in tune with what their customers want will ensure they are accounting for use cases that occur in real-world scenarios, making whatever customer experience they offer a seamless one.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.